Every year, multiple tourist transit through or visit Singapore. Many also move to Singapore for work as expatriates.
This was written to help those understand and seek help through the Singapore medical system.
Largely, it is very convenient to see a doctor in Singapore. General Practices (GPs) operate on a walk-in basis. Specialists do require an appointment but would also accept walk-in patients if they have available slots.
Now let’s get started.
You have just moved into your brand-new apartment in Singapore, happily unpacking your stuff when Oh My God all you hear a loud crash and see that your child has tripped over some boxes and knocked his head.
What to Do in an Emergency:
For an emergency ambulance in Singapore, Dial 995. It will bring you to the closest Public Hospital. Unfortunately, you do not have a choice which hospital to go to.
If you wish to get to a certain hospital or because your insurance policy says you must, please contact one of the private ambulance operators instead. However, the response may not be as prompt. Here is a non-exhaustive list with their respective numbers to call.
Non-exhaustive list of Private Ambulance Operators:
- AMS – 6281 8111 (24 hours)
- Lentor Ambulance – 6100 1777 (24 hours)
- Hope Ambulance – 6100 1911 (24 hours)
Non Emergency Ambulance services 1777 (24 hours)
- AME – 6247 7080
- BLESSWELL – 6273 0147
- ECON – 6382 8888
- ER – 6222 2995
- First Ambulance – 6252 9696
- HENG GREF – 6788 8911
- CIVIC AMBULANCE – 6333 3000
In the event the medical emergency does not require an ambulance, then your options would then be to make your way down to the nearest
1) GP Clinic
2) Hospital Accident and Emergency Department
GP clinic – To locate your nearest clinic, this can be done through a simple google search with the terms “clinic” and of course allowing location and with the simple use of a ride-hailing app such as Grab or Go-Jek or even booking a taxi, you can get to your nearest medical facility in no time.
As the GP clinics in Singapore are mostly walk-in clinics. All you need to do is just walk into the clinic, produce your child’s and or your own ID, register and wait for your turn to see the doctor. Of course, in busy clinics, waiting times can be very long.
Some GPs open late till about 10pm. There are a few 24-hour GP clinics around. There are also 24-hour family medicine clinics based at hospitals such as Concord International Hospital Family Medicine or Thomson Medical. It’s really useful to take a walk around your neighbourhood to locate your nearest GP clinic and take note of their opening hours.
If the doctor at the GP clinic you see deems that your case is more than what they can handle in the clinic setting, or warrants further investigations or observation, he or she will write a referral and get you to then proceed to the nearest accident & emergency department at the hospital. If the situation is dire, they might even call an ambulance to send you to the hospital instead
Hospital Accident and Emergency Department
Hospital Accident and Emergency Department – If you do make your own way to the emergency department of a hospital, with regards to hospitals, there are many scattered around Singapore and all of them have 24 hours accident and emergency departments. Again, all you need to do is just walk up to the registration counter, produce your child’s ID, register and wait for your turn to be called.
The first person you will see at the Emergency department is the nurse who will do a triage of your basic complaints and take your routine parameters – temperature, blood pressure etc. Do note that waiting times can be agonizingly long as the more serious cases such as those life and death ones are seen first. Arriving by ambulance (blue light) may speed up things a little as the case will be classified as critical and you’ll be brought straight into a more emergent facility such as the critical care room.
This is an exhaustive list of public hospitals in Singapore
Public Hospitals in Singapore:
- Alexandra Hospital (AH) – Central
- Singapore General Hospital (SGH) – Central
- Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) – Central
- National University Hospital (NUH) – West
- Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) – West
- Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) – North
- https:/www.skh.com.sg (SKGH) – East
- Changi General Hospital (CGH) – East
- KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) – Central – This hospital deals with Women (Obgyn) and Children (Paediatric) cases only.
Private Hospitals in Singapore:
- Concord International Hospital – Central
- Mount Elizabeth Hospital – Central
- Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital – North
- Gleneagles Hospital – Central
- Raffles Hospital – Central
- Farrer Park Hospital – Central
- Thomson Medical Centre – North
Upon reaching the hospital, all you need to do is relax and trust the professional team of doctors, nurses, patient associates who will take your child through the steps of registration, triage, investigations, treatment and or admission. This should ease your headache and worry, all till the time till you need to settle the (frequently hefty) bill.
So, now that your child is much better, happily running around, screaming, yelling and doing all the things kids should do. Then, almost as expected after a few days he develops a nighttime cough and soon a fever and before you know it, the rest of the family are coughing non stop too!
You decide to head down to the pharmacy/chemist to see if you can get some remedies that will soothe the coughing and give you an undisturbed night of sleep
What to expect at the Pharmacy/Chemist in Singapore
GPs in Singapore are readily accessible and conveniently located around the island, opening till late hours. Hence self-medicating at a pharmacy is a practice not widely adopted. Furthermore, most medicines can only be obtained with a Doctor’s prescription.
There are very few medicines which are OTC (over-the-counter). Most of the medications you hope to obtain would still require you to at least speak to a pharmacist first. The pharmacist will understand your condition better and offer you advice on which medication may be best suited to your ailment.
The list of OTC medications you can purchase from the pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription are usually the regular cough and cold medications, pain killer and fever medications, simple creams for rashes, simple eye drops and medicines for diarrhoea and vomiting Antibiotics are unfortunately not OTC.
After spending a fortune on every possible remedy, you can find at the pharmacy and trying out every possible home remedy, the coughing in your entire family still does not seem to cease. You finally decide that you need to see a doctor
Seeing a GP/Family Physician
As you already know, most if not all GP Clinics in Singapore operate on a walk-in first-come-first-serve basis. Seeing a Doctor is as simple as walking in, registering and waiting your turn.
When it is your turn, you’ll be called in to see the Doctor and he will go through the steps of eliciting your complaints and examining you. You then wait to collect your medicines in the clinic complete payment. That’s right. You do not need to go to a separate pharmacy or chemist for your medications and treatment. All GP clinics in Singapore stock their own medicines. It’s a one-stop shop!
Simple blood and urine tests are also performed at the clinic. Your blood will be drawn by the doctor or his assistant and the tests sent to the laboratory for analysis. The results are sent back to the clinic and the clinic will contact you for a follow up to collect your results and discuss further steps in your treatment journey. Some clinics even have simple x-ray services on their premises. However, most clinics will arrange for you to have your x-rays or scans done at a separate radiology centre.
So you’ve taken the tablets, drank the syrup, had the blood tests and take your x-rays and guess what? You and your son are still coughing! You see the doctor again and he decides it is time to send you to see a specialist.
Seeing a Specialist in Singapore
As discussed earlier, You do NOT need a GP referral to see a Specialist in Singapore. Unless of course, you need to claim insurances which sometimes require a GP referral. All you need to do is to do a google search on the specialist type you’ll like to see, take note of their clinic’s telephone number, give them a call and set up an appointment to see any specialist you fancy!
If your GP does write you a referral letter, there are some advantages which I will share further. They are mainly:
- If your insurer requires a letter from the GP before they will cover you for your claims when seeing the specialist
- The GP will recommend a Specialist or a team of specialists best suited for your condition. He or she can also recommend specialists whom they have worked before or are known for their expertise in the field. For example, there may be 5 doctors who are good at seeing prolonged chronic coughs (respiratory specialists) but out of these 5, only 1 may have had further training in a hospital which specializes in tuberculosis (TB) and would be more familiar with the latest treatments and management of this condition.
- The GP can also communicate effectively your symptom story, the tests and treatments you have undergone, what diagnosis he is considering or has ruled out and this will help the Specialist manage your condition with greater precision.
Most Specialists will only see patients with an appointment. But they will be more than glad to see you on a walk-in basis if they are not swamped with patients at their clinic.
Getting an appointment is easy and waiting times are usually less than a week. Sometimes if you are lucky, you can even get to see the specialist on the same day itself!
You’ve seen the specialist, got diagnosed, got treated and the whole family is back to perfect health. You decide that it is time to take things easy and chill out for a bit at the weekend. So, you pack the entire family on a cooling Saturday evening to the UNESCO site: The botanical gardens, squeeze with the crowd and catch that free symphonic orchestra.
Heaven knows you need a free concert after a small fortune you just spent on medical fees. It’s a relief you have insurance. As the sun sets and your family unwinds when Oh My God, all of a sudden again, your child trips over the picnic basket and hurts his arm! Here we go again, back to part 1.
We hope that this gives you a good overview of what to expect when you require medical attention in Singapore.